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It is a new year, and the odds of any of this fic ever being finished properly are, if I am being honest, basically nil, so here! have some WIPs! Not included: the handful of stories I am even remotely likely to complete anytime soon.

1. Pick up Where You Left Off: MCU, Peggy/Steve time travel shenanigans. Written before Cap 2 hit theaters and way too throughly Jossed. Missing the chunk in the middle where the story goes, but I did figure out how it ended.

Peggy walks into Howard’s lab carrying a stack of files, but the room is empty. There’s the usual detritus of an easily-distracted genius at work: bits of machinery, things half-built or half-disassembled. And a thing that might almost look like a standing mirror, bristling with wires and emitting a low steady hum, its surface a swirling red-gold.

Peggy steps towards it hesitantly. Howard had been muttering for weeks about his new project, but he’d refused to tell anyone anything much. What could he be building now?

She reaches a hand out towards the shining surface. Through it, she can almost make out the room’s reflection-- or, no. It’s another room entirely, one she’s never seen before. There’s a human-shaped figure standing in that other room, not much more than an arm’s length away; Peggy leans in, trying to make out the features on the figure’s face through the mirror’s brightness. Without meaning to, her fingers brush the surface, touch that red-gold light, and Peggy is gone in a crackle of sparks.

When Howard rushes back in through the doors, declaring triumphantly that he’d finally gotten it to work, ignoring Colonel Phillips’ demand to know what’s using so much goddamn power, the lab is empty. Two minutes later, the whole thing blows up extravagantly, the power relays fried beyond repair.

Peggy Carter is never seen again.

2012:

“Got a present for you,” Tony says offhandedly, and Steve finds himself pulled into Tony’s orbit, following him to his lab in the depths of Stark Tower. The room’s a mess, the way it’s been every one of the handful of times Steve’s seen it, bits of gadgetry strewn everywhere and a riot of wires spilling free from a console on the wall. A robot is making a half-hearted attempt at vacuuming, and Tony steps nimbly around it; Steve comes up short and the thing bumps into his boot. He feels vaguely like he ought to apologize to it, but they tell him computers aren’t smart enough to have their feelings hurt. Yet.

If anyone’s robot could have feelings, though, it’s one of Tony Stark’s. Steve gently nudges the robot in the direction of a dust bunny, and it burbles happily away. It’s only then that Steve remembers to tune back in to what Tony’s saying.

“...fried the power for a few city blocks, but it was all in the name of science. So! What do you think?”

Steve still feels, sometimes, like the twenty-first century moves too fast for him. And Tony is thoroughly a twenty-first-century kind of a guy. “What am I looking at, exactly?”

Steve’s first though is that it’s the frame for a mirror, or a window, but one that’s been plugged in to a supercomputer. Wires trail from it, and oddly-shaped pieces of metal and plastic are affixed to various points around the tall, standing rectangle. It’s not sleek and shiny, though, like most of the technology Steve sees these days; in fact it looks positively antique compared to the rest of the stuff in Tony’s lab. “You didn’t build this,” he says. “This is old.”

“So I take it you did not in fact hear a word I just said,” Tony says, a little reprovingly, and Steve shrugs. “Well, be prepared to be blown away, because this, my friend, is Howard Stark’s attempt at a time machine. Only he never got the thing to work for more than ten minutes together, and I? Have.”

Steve can’t help the feeling that pools in his belly when Tony says ‘time machine.’ It’s something like fear and something like hope, and maybe also a little more of the incredulous disbelief that he’s been feeling a lot of lately, ever since he woke up seventy years too late. “A time machine? You don’t think it could--”

“Hold it, champ,” Tony says, raising both hands. “Howard, as far as I can tell, only figured out travel in one direction, and I don’t think it’s the way you want to go. He meant to start small, send things maybe a half-hour into the future. But the power consumption was ridiculous, and he could never keep it running long enough to see if it really worked.”

“But you can?” Steve asks, even as his brain catches up, scolds the rest of him for jumping to conclusions. It had all spooled out in his head, just then, all in a flash: one quick trip home, and everything back to the way it should have been.

Steve’s been thinking a lot, lately, about the way things should have been. Maybe he shouldn’t have gone to Jim’s birthday party. But the man is ninety-six, and the last of the Howling Commandos; he’d wanted to introduce Steve to every one of his nineteen grandchildren and talk about the good old days. Steve had found himself reminiscing about Bucky, and Peggy, the losses still new and raw for him; for Jim, they were names out of the dimly recollected past.

Even SHIELD can’t tell him what happened to Peggy. Steve expected more from the future.

But now Tony’s got a pair of welding goggles on, and he’s fired up the time machine. A low hum fills the room, and the surface of the mirror flickers, then settles to a steady blue-white glow.

“Hah!” Tony crows. “Got it. Now we just need to wait. Howard’s notes said he tried throwing a bunch of stuff at it, but nothing ever came back out--”

There’s a small flash of light, and a red apple thunks to the ground in front of the mirror. Steve steps forward cautiously, and picks it up. It’s a perfectly ordinary apple. Steve tosses it to Tony, who cackles at it in delight.

Over the next minute or two, a wrench, a pencil, and a handful of bolts come through the mirror. Steve tries to process the fact that Howard threw them seventy years ago, and here he is on the other side catching them, but it’s too much to wrap his head around. Tony is in raptures. “Says in his notes that he ran to get the Colonel and some other scientists-- it took about five minutes-- and then he made someone’s hat disappear before the thing blew out half the local power grid. So if you don’t mind waiting a minute for a seventy-year-old hat--”

Steve can almost see something through that blue-white glow. It looks like a room, but it’s not Tony’s lab. And then a slim figure steps into view on the other side of the mirror, so close that he can almost reach out and touch it--

And then there’s a *big* flash of light, and a woman is standing between Steve and the mirror. She slumps instantly, unconscious, and Steve is so stunned that it’s his enhanced reflexes, not his waking brain, that catch her.

“Whoa!” Tony pulls off the welding goggles, as Steve scoops the woman up into his arms. “Howard never mentioned human testing.”

And then Steve gets a good look at the face of the woman he is holding, and his legs nearly go out from under him. He reels a little, before he recovers, and all he manages to say is, “Peggy.”

“You know her?”

“Yeah.” His mouth is dry. “Peggy Carter.” She’s warm in his arms, breathing shallowly. She still wears the same perfume.

“That’s, uh, that agent who disappeared in ‘46, right? Huh. Howard’s first test of this thing was in ‘46.” Tony blinks, nonplussed. “Guess that explains where she went.”

“Can we get her to a doctor? Call Fury, I guess?” Not that Steve wants to put her down, or let her out of his sight; he’s just a little concerned about her being unconscious. Behind him, totally ignored by Steve and Tony both, a hat flutters to the ground in front of the mirror; a few moments later the blue-white glow dissolves.

“Sure, sure,” Tony says, and snaps into action. He calls Director Fury, and explains-- Steve can hear Fury’s “You did WHAT?” from across the room-- and shortly a SHIELD medical team is swarming Tony’s lab. Steve lays Peggy down on the gurney carefully, and half a dozen doctors push between him and her, checking her vitals.

Then Fury tries to get him out of the room, and Steve digs his heels in. “No way,” he snaps. “You’re not trying the same crap with her that you tried with me. She needs someone who knows her around when she wakes up.”

“As far as Agent Carter knows, you’ve been dead for three years. She’s going to get a lot of shocks today; let’s ease her into them.”

Steve agrees to back away from the gurney, at least, and leans against the wall while the doctors and nurses scurry back and forth through Tony’s lab. Tony is holding court over a group of awed-looking SHIELD scientists, declaiming about the time machine in excited tones. Director Fury takes up a position next to Steve.

Fury seems to have calmed down a bit from his inital anger, at least. “You know,” he says, almost conversationally, “a lot of people have spent a lot of time trying to solve Agent Carter’s disappearance. All kinds of crazy theories. She defected to the Reds, she jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, she changed her name and moved to rural Appalachia. Nobody ever found a solid lead. And now we know why.”

“Now we know,” Steve agrees, and then stops caring about Director Fury, because Peggy is waking up. The doctors and nurses fall quiet as she groans, stirs, and props herself up on one elbow.

“Ooh,” she says. “That was a nasty shock.”

“Agent Carter?” one of the doctors says hesitantly. She blinks at him, a little bleary-eyed.

“I’m all right,” she says. “I think. My head feels like it’s full of bees, but I know who’s the President and I know what year it is--”

“Don’t be so sure about that, Agent Carter,” Fury pipes up in his booming voice. He swoops down into the center of the room, drawing Peggy’s attention away from where he’d been standing, next to Steve. “Do you know what that machine was?”

“Some new toy of Howard’s,” Peggy says. She’s begun to take in her surroundings, Steve can see, starting to get uneasy, starting to notice all the things that aren’t right. “I didn’t mean to, but I touched it, and it gave me a shock.”

“It did a bit more than that, sweetheart,” Tony interjects. “Dad was building a time machine. Not a very good one, admittedly, but I’m working on that.” He flashes her a brilliant smile. “Tony Stark. Pleasure to meet you, Agent Carter.”

Steve feels like he’s been pinned to the wall. He wants to jump in, wants to say something that will stop Peggy from going pale the way she’s doing right now, but he feels frozen in place. Peggy’s eyes are darting around the room, taking in Tony’s shiny gadgetry, the clothes on the doctors and scientists, Director Fury himself--

And finally she sees Steve. Her mouth forms a silent O, and her hands rise to cover it. “I’m dead, aren’t I,” she says evenly. “Howard’s managed to kill me with whatever-it-is he was building, and I’m in some sort of purgatory, because I’m dead.”

“No such luck, I’m afraid,” says Fury, and then adds, “Come on down here, Captain Rogers.”

Steve manages to unglue himself from the wall, and takes a few hesitant steps towards Peggy. He can’t think of anything to say. Every possible sentence has flown from his brain, and all he can do is stare at her, sitting up on the gurney, looking shell-shocked and out of place and not quite real.

“But you’re dead,” Peggy says, and there is a pleading note in her voice. “You’ve been dead three years.”

Fury sounds unusually gentle; certainly he is kinder than he was to Steve. “Captain Rogers was frozen after his plane crash,” he says. “He was under the ice a long time. We found him and thawed him out.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Peggy says. “Perfectly ridiculous. As ridiculous as-- as--”

“As Howard building a time machine?” Steve asks, and manages to smile. She smiles back at him, and he’s pretty sure there are tears in her eyes. There certainly are some in his.

“Yes,” she says. “Exactly as ridiculous as that.”

Things dissolve, after that, into a flurry of debriefings and meetings and doctor’s appointments, and Steve is half on autopilot for all of them. He feels like Peggy is the only real person in the world, and at the same time he can’t quite believe he’s looking at her. From the way she sometimes glances over at him, or takes his hand to squeeze it, as if for reassurance, Steve suspects that Peggy feels the same way about him.

Steve doesn’t start paying attention to the world again until General Fury says “And of course we’ll be more than happy to house you here at SHIELD headquarters, Agent Carter--”

“No,” he breaks in. “Peggy can stay with me. I mean,” he adds, realizing that he’s being a little presumptuous, “if she wants to. If you want to,” and he turns to her, and she manages a faint smile.

“I think I do, yes,” she says, “if that’s all right. It’d be nice to have someone-- familiar-- around.”

So a SHIELD car is brought around, and they are driven to Brooklyn. Peggy’s face is nearly glued to the window, the whole drive, and they don’t talk much. While Peggy is watching the changed face of the city, Steve is watching Peggy.

They pull up to Steve’s brownstone in Brooklyn, not so very far from the neighborhood where he grew up. Steve leads the way, and Peggy follows, looking out of place in her neat uniform and her rolled hair, her red lipstick and silk stockings. At the same time, though, she looks exactly right, like the first person who’s looked the way they should that Steve has seen in the months since he woke up. The SHIELD car rolls away from the curb and off down the street, but Steve has no illusions that this means they’re being left alone. There will be agents in the neighborhood all night.

When Steve unlocks the door to his apartment and Peggy steps in, her eyebrows go up a little. “It’s a bit bare,” she notes, uncertain. “Is that the way they do things now?”

“No, I just-- I only moved in a couple of months ago. I was staying in SHIELD headquarters, before that,” Steve explains. “And I’ve been pretty busy, with this whole Avengers thing-- I’ll tell you more about that later, it’s interesting. So I haven’t had a lot of time to make the place too homey.”

“That’s all right,” she says, “I’ve been in my flat almost a year and I haven’t hung a single picture-- oh,” she says, something occurring to her. “My flat. I wonder what’s happened to it.”

“Well, if the building’s still standing, you won’t believe what the rent is like these days,” Steve says. “But if you’re anything like me, you’ll have seventy years of interest in your bank account, so it’s not as bad as all that.”

“Right,” Peggy says, and laughs a shaky laugh. “I think-- I think I need a good night’s sleep, and I’ll be able to face all this a lot better in the morning.”

“Of course,” Steve says. “I’ll take the sofa bed. I think there’s pajamas and a change of clothes in the bag they gave you, and a toothbrush--”

She flings her arms around him, and clings tight for a moment. Steve goes stiff a little, with surprise, before he relaxes enough to raise a cautious hand to Peggy’s back.

“Sorry,” Peggy says, when she finally lets go. “I just-- I’m glad you’re here. This would all be a bit too much, if you weren’t here.”

“Then I’m glad I’m here too,” Steve says, and for the first time since he woke up, seventy years late, he really is.

In the morning they go back to SHIELD headquarters, where the news has traveled way ahead of them. Tony is an incurable gossip, which Steve had known, but he hadn’t quite realized it would mean every other Avenger and half the scientists would know every detail of what had happened the day before. Thor greets them cheerfully, with a hearty handshake for Peggy, and Natasha offers her a thin smile, which is a lot for Natasha. Bruce and Tony are deep in conversation about the time machine, pages and pages of blueprints and diagrams spread out on the conference table in front of them.

They sit down at the table together, just as Fury and his aides come in. “Well, we’ve had some excitement, haven’t we?” he asks, clapping his hands together.

“I just want to reiterate that this was not my fault,” Tony notes. “We’re blaming my dad for this one, right?”

“I certainly am,” Peggy murmurs. Under the table, her knee is pressed against Steve’s, warm and reassuring just by its presence.

“Have you had any luck making the time machine go both directions?” Clint asks. “That could be kind of cool.”

“That could very easily break the fabric of spacetime, also, which is not actually very cool,” Bruce points out.

“Even my people have not meddled with the workings of time,” Thor says. “It is too dangerous. What has happened must be what has happened, without alteration.”

“Anyway, it wasn’t meant for two-way trips,” says Tony. “Strictly past to future. So not actually the most useful time machine ever built.”

“Tony, it’s the *only* time machine ever built,” Steve says. “I mean, as far as we know.”

“Excuse me,” says Peggy, and everyone falls quiet, “but what, exactly, is going to happen next? To me, I mean. I assume I can’t just pick up working where I left off.”
There is a brief, embarrassed pause.

“Well, no,” Fury concedes. “But we’ve had a little practice getting the Captain here proficient in 21st-century technology.” Steve can send a text message without written step-by-step instructions now, and he has an iPod he doesn’t know how to add music to. But Peggy would probably be a quicker study than him. “And you were one of the best agents Colonel Phillips ever had; he spoke highly of you in his memoirs.”

“He wrote a memoir?” Peggy asks, interested.

“It’s classified. But we can probably get you clearance,” Natasha says.

“Clearance, and catching up to speed. As far as I’m concerned, you’re a SHIELD agent, Carter,” Fury says. “Which means we’re going to look after you.”

“I don’t need looking after,” Peggy says. “I need something to *do*. And I doubt many of my job skills are relevant any more.”

“You’re still an awfully good shot,” Steve says. “That never stops being useful.” Suddenly Clint starts looking interested.

“You know more about the Super-Soldier project than anyone alive,” Fury points out. “That, we can use.”

The meeting breaks up, and Peggy is swept away by Fury and Natasha, off to get fake ID and have her brain picked about the Super-Soldier project. Steve knows he’s being irrational, but he kind of doesn’t like having her out of his sight. It doesn’t help that Tony claps him on the back, gives him a knowing grin, and says “So! Reunited with your girlfriend, very touching, I hope last night went well?” He waggles his eyebrows at Steve in a way that gets across his meaning pretty clearly. Steve feels his ears go red.

“We didn’t-- she’s not-- I slept on the couch,” he finishes lamely. “And she’s not my girlfriend, exactly. We never quite made it to a first date.”

“So she’s single?” Clint asks, looking a little hopeful.

“No!” Steve snaps. “I mean, it’s complicated.”

“Is it?” Thor asks, his big honest brow furrowing. “You are reunited, against all odds. Surely fate intends a match.” Thor is kind of insufferable when it comes to anything romantic; having a very serious girlfriend who actually broke several laws of physics to get him back will do that to a guy.

“Look, we’re-- we’re still adjusting,” Steve says, aware that this does not explain all that much. “Especially her. She just got here, I’m not going to just assume I can pick things up where we left them.”

Tony shrugs. “All right, champ, but I’d suggest you make your move before Barton here gets impatient.” Clint smirks at Steve. Steve tries not to glare.

So Steve spends the rest of the day working himself into a froth of nerves, and when it’s time to head back to Brooklyn with Peggy he can barely talk to her. The ride home is excruciating, and his apartment seems to be filled with a cloud of awkward silence. Finally, though, he manages to get out, “We, uh, we missed our date.”

“What?” Peggy says, distracted, from his kitchen table; she has acquired a massive stack of file folders in the last few hours, and also one of those little phones with the built-in keyboard. Steve thinks it’s called a Blackberry. He had one, but he broke it.

“Our date,” Steve repeats. “When I was-- um. The Stork Club? Eight o’clock?”

Peggy’s hands still, and she looks up at Steve properly. “Oh,” she says. “Of course. Could we, really?”

“Well the Stork Club’s been closed for about forty years,” Steve says, “but I think I still owe you a dance.”

Then Peggy smiles up at him, and Steve finally relaxes a little. “I’d like that,” she says.

It takes a few minutes for Steve to figure out his stereo, and he gets a little distracted explaining how the thing works to Peggy, but eventually the strains of Bing Crosby fill the room. He takes Peggy’s hand and leads her out into the middle of his living room, and she leans her head on his shoulder. They sway back and forth a little, not really moving their feet much, just letting the music wash over them.

“You know, I said I was going to go dancing, once the war was over,” Peggy says, “but I never did, not really. There was always so much to do, and I never made the time. Howard’s always-- *was* always trying to get me to hit the town with him, and I always said no.”

“I still can’t really believe that Howard’s gone,” Steve says. “I mean, I like Tony fine, I think you’ll like him too, but I keep thinking I’ll walk into a lab at SHIELD and he’ll be there, tinkering with something.”

“I saw him yesterday,” Peggy says. “And today he’s been dead for twenty years. I don’t think I’ve really wrapped my head round it, yet. I was just getting used to you being dead, you know,” she adds, looking up at him, “and now you’re alive and Howard and the Colonel and everyone else I know isn’t. And they’ve given me this ridiculous little telephone.”

“Wait’ll you see how people dress,” Steve says. “People who aren’t in SHIELD, I mean. They go to the grocery store in their pajamas. And nobody wears hats.”

“Oh, the clothes they’ve given me are awful,” Peggy says. “And there’s something wrong with the food. Everything’s too sweet, and the tomato on my sandwich didn’t taste like anything.”

“They thought being thawed out must’ve done something to my taste buds, at first,” Steve says in reminiscent tones. “But they worked out that I just wasn’t used to the food they have these days. Now I mostly shop at the farmer’s market around the corner, and everything tastes more or less okay.”

Peggy gives him an absentminded little squeeze, and Steve tries not to lean into it too much. “It must have been awful for you, waking up here,” she said. “Not knowing anyone. I don’t think I’d be coping at all, if you weren’t here.”

Steve knows he ought to shrug it off, but this is Peggy, and he’s never been much good at lying to her. “It was pretty lonely, especially at first,” he says. “But it got better. It does get better.”

“That’s... good to hear,” Peggy murmurs, and Steve realizes that the music has stopped. But they’re still standing there, arms around each other, close enough to feel each other breathing.

It’s Peggy who kisses Steve, Peggy who rises up on her toes and presses her red mouth to his. He’d wondered, absentmindedly, what she would do once she ran out of the lipstick she’d carried with her from 1946, but right now that’s the last thought in his head. Mostly the only thought in his head is wordless happiness, and maybe some curiosity about what would happen if he opened his mouth a little. So he does, and slides his tongue along her bottom lip, and she makes a soft noise and puts her hands in his hair.

Somehow they’ve gone from vertical to sitting on Steve’s couch without him really noticing. He’s also not too sure when his shirt got half unbuttoned, or Peggy’s skirt got rucked up enough for him to run a hand along her bare, pale thigh. But he’s not really complaining. They kiss for a long time, hands roaming, clothes growing more and more disarrayed.

Peggy is half in Steve’s lap, blouse gone, wearing a bra that Steve supposes she’s been wearing since 1946. She puts her hands on Steve’s shoulders and swings herself the rest of the way across his legs, and he puts his hands on her waist to steady her. She looks down at him, her hair falling in her eyes a little, and Steve reaches up to tuck a lock behind her ear. The fact that he is doing this-- that he *can* do this, now, here, with Peggy-- boggles him more than a little. He kisses her again, and again, and her hands fumble at his belt, and then an insistent beeping fills the room. A moment later, his phone rings.

“What’s that awful noise?” Peggy asks, frowning.

“It’s just the phone,” Steve says, but no one has Peggy’s number but maybe Director Fury, and if they’re calling her and him both it’s probably important. He lets his head thunk back against the back of the couch for a second, and then they get up and answer their respective phones.

Peggy holds hers to her ear hesitantly, like it might bite her, and says “Hello?” a shade too loud. But Steve’s distracted, because Tony is yelling in his ear that his goddamned time machine is missing, are you listening, Rogers? “Someone’s stolen the time machine,” Peggy says, looking up from the phone to Steve, as Tony continues to shout at him.

They’re back at SHIELD headquarters within an hour, and it’s not until Tony gestures at his face and says “You’ve got a little, uh,” that Steve figures out why everyone is smirking at him. Peggy’s mouth is nearly bare of lipstick, and Steve’s pretty sure he’s got it all over his own mouth, and maybe his neck a little too. He flushes bright red and excuses himself; when he comes back from the bathroom Natasha is passing out security-camera pictures of the guy in a coverall and baseball cap who walked into Tony’s lab, loaded the time machine into a crate, wheeled it out again, and somehow vanished with it in the space of time it took Tony to get a sandwich.

“You’d be amazed at what can happen in the five minutes someone’s out of the room,” Peggy remarks dryly. Steve glares at Clint, who’s been alternating between paying attention, leering at him and Peggy, and snickering. Natasha clears her throat, just a tiny little ahem, and Clint snaps back to attention almost instantly. Steve sort of wishes he could do that.

“The good news is,” Bruce tells them, “the thing has a pretty distinct energy signature, and it uses an absolute ton of power. So anyone trying to use it will probably light up on satellite photos like a Christmas tree.”

“Why steal it, though?” Thor asks. “I cannot see a use for it, in all honesty, when it can only send things forwards.”

“Maybe they think they can make it work both ways,” Steve suggests.

Tony scoffs loudly. “Okay, look, anyone who could make that thing work backwards is smarter than me and Howard put together. Do you know anyone who fits that bill? And who actually has a use for a working time machine?”

“Actually,” says Thor, whose expression has grown suddenly serious, “I suppose I do.” There is a brief silence in the room, before Clint groans.

“Oh, man,” he says, “now Loki’s got a time machine. Great. Just great.”

The meeting breaks up with the general consensus that Loki is probably behind the theft; if he wasn’t the coveralled workman in disguise, the man was probably working for him. Fury is less than sanguine about the idea that Loki, or a lackey of his, has infiltrated SHIELD headquarters to the degree that he could take his pick of highly classified lab equipment. Steve supposes a lot of people are going to get shouted at, but he’s not one of them, and tonight he has a hard time caring.

It’s late when they get back to Steve’s apartment for the second time. Steve doesn’t really know how to pick up where they left off, though he desperately wants to. Not knowing how to pick up where they left off is, he suspects, going to be a recurring problem for him and Peggy unless he does something about it soon.

So he does.

As soon as they’re in the door, Steve kisses Peggy. She makes a gratifyingly surprised noise into his mouth, and then her arms are slung around the back of his neck, drawing him in closer. It’s not long before their hands drift further south, and Steve finds it in himself to be a little bold. He steers them towards his bedroom.

At the doorway, though, he hesitates a little, and Peggy breaks the kiss. “What’s the matter?” she asks.

“Nothing,” Steve says. “Really, nothing. I’m just. I’m just not sure I believe this is really happening yet.”

She raises a hand to his face, traces the line of his jaw gently. “If it’s any help, I don’t know if I do either,” she says. “The day before yesterday, I had one sort of life, and now I have another one entirely. I don’t know how I feel about that yet, honestly; the only part I’m sure about is that I’m glad you’re here.”

She smiles at him, a little wickedly. “And also-- did you know they’ve invented a birth control pill? The doctor who looked me over yesterday was a bit insistent that I get them; she seemed to think there’d be a need.”

Steve laughs at that, and some of the tension that’s been holding him back dissolves. He scoops Peggy up in his arms, and she shrieks with laughter too when he dumps her unceremoniously on the bed.

Steve’s bed is, to his eyes, way too big for any one person to need; he hadn’t actually furnished the apartment himself and he’d been a little boggled at it. He can sleep anywhere, after all, and the hard little twin bed in SHIELD headquarters had actually been a step up from sleeping on the ground or in a barracks, which had been his previous options. The bed in Steve’s apartment has, up until now, seemed a needless luxury.

Now, though, he’s grateful for it, now that he can throw himself down next to Peggy and sprawl across the wide expanse of bedspread. They don’t undress each other quickly, or frantically, the way they had been earlier in the evening. They take their time a little. Peggy’s mouth lingers on his throat; he strokes a hand down her side. Clothes are shed, a piece at a time, until they’re down to Steve’s boxers and Peggy’s peachy silk tap pants. They button at her hip, and Steve’s fingers fumble a little at them, his hands suddenly seeming far too big.

“Here,” Peggy says, and gently pushes his hands away. “Let me get that.” So Steve backs off a little, watches her shimmy out of the last of her underwear, and tries not to think about the fact that he’s been hard practically since they walked in the door. He wants to be slow, to be careful, to be sure that Peggy wants this as much as he does.

But when Peggy hooks her fingers in the elastic of his boxers, Steve’s hips jerk in a way that makes it clear he won’t be able to wait for much longer. Peggy leans over him, kissing him as she eases the waistband over his erection, and then she’s on top of him, her legs bracketing his waist. She grinds back a little against him, and Steve lets out a faint groan.

“I, uh, I should tell you, I haven’t done this much,” Steve says. His first few months after waking up, Tony’d practically been throwing girls at him, and he’d maybe been a little unwise, had slept around some without really thinking it through. It hadn’t been what he’d really wanted, although he supposes he is glad he’s not as nervous and unsteady as he’d been then. He kind of wants to make a good impression on Peggy.

But she just smiles down at him, says “I’ll start slow, then,” before she slides down onto his cock. As promised, she rolls her hips slowly, carefully, and Steve tries not to swear and clutches at the bedspread. Then she goes a little faster, and Steve starts to move with her, to find a rhythm.

He gets a hand between them, finds the spot that makes her thighs clench around his waist, and her nails scrabble at his chest. They move together like that for a little while, until Peggy clenches around him and moans something wordless, and Steve’s not sure he can hold back any longer. He rolls them over and thrusts deeper, harder. Peggy presses her heels into his back and arches, her throat a long pale line Steve wants to put his mouth on. So he does, sucking and biting a little, leaving marks, and his hips stutter out of rhythm. He comes gasping Peggy’s name.

They lie together on Steve’s big bed, their breathing slowing. After a while, they get under the covers and curl up around each other, and for the first time since he woke up in the twenty-first century, Steve sleeps easily.

In the morning it’s back to SHIELD headquarters, where Steve feels like last night is written all over his face. Tony and Thor both clap him on the back as soon as they see him, and Clint makes a disappointed little face and slinks away. Bruce, at least, can be counted on to care more about science than sex, and Natasha doesn’t really have facial expressions, but Steve still feels like he spends most of the morning blushing.

Peggy is cool as a cucumber, though she does steal a quick kiss before going off with Natasha to get certified on what seems like every gun in the SHIELD armory. As soon as she’s gone, Tony and Thor want the details.

“So, last night went well, I take it?” Tony asks with a grin.

“You seem better-rested, and a great deal more relaxed,” says Thor, waggling his eyebrows in an entirely unsubtle way.

“This really isn’t your business, guys,” Steve said, aware that he’s blushing again.

“Aw, c’mon,” Tony wheedles. “Was it magical? Tell me it was magical.”

“I have to-- talk to Fury,” Steve says with as much dignity as he can muster, and flees.

In fact, he has an appointment with his SHIELD-appointed therapist, which is always an annoyance. It’s not that Steve has anything against seeing an analyst, really, and it was helpful for the first couple of months after he was thawed out. But lately his therapist seems to be digging after something Steve doesn’t think is there, and if it is then anyway it’s nobody’s business but Steve’s.

“So you’ve had an exciting week, Steve,” is how his therapist starts things off, which is another thing that’s annoying. Steve’s aware that there aren’t a lot of therapists with security clearance as ridiculously high as Steve’s life requires them to be, but that doesn’t mean the man has to be briefed on everything that happens in Steve’s life before he can tell him about it. He’d sort of like something to be a surprise, once in a while. Why even go to the appointment, if his therapist already knows everything?

So Steve shrugs and says, “Yeah. I guess I have,” and then subsides into stony silence for a few minutes while his therapist’s pen scratches across a legal pad.

Finally he relents a little, and offers, “It’s pretty great to have Peggy back. I mean, I’ve missed her a lot, and not knowing what happened to her was always kind of upsetting.”

“Are you planning on pursuing a relationship with Agent Carter?” his therapist asks, which is cutting to the chase a little more than Steve is comfortable with. Sometimes he suspects that the list of therapists he could get along with well and the list of therapists with high enough clearance aren’t really the same list.

“Well, yeah. I mean, that was what I always planned to do, once the war was over, and-- it’s pretty well over. And now I’ve got the chance.” He hasn’t been able to help fantasizing about it, the way he had during the war, even if the fantasy looks different now. Back then, he’d dreamed about a life out of the military entirely, maybe going to art school, Peggy staying home with the kids. Now he suspects that would have made her miserable. In the new fantasy, Peggy’s got his back, cool and unflappable at the weirdest stuff life on the Avengers throws at them. He’s a little surprised to find he likes this fantasy better.

Not that he tells his therapist any of that. It’s none of his business, really. He gets the sense that the man disapproves of him and Peggy picking things right back up again, that he thinks there’s things they need to work out first. And maybe that’s true. But the outcome’s the same, either way: he wants to be with Peggy. He always has, and he thinks he always will.

Still, he’s in a bad mood when he leaves, one that doesn’t really evaporate when he spends lunch being needled by the rest of the team, and pressed for details he’s not willing to share.

***
[stuff goes here]
***

A bullet dings off Steve’s helmet, knocking him nearly to the floor.

“Oh, and I hired an assassin,” Loki notes. “I suppose I should have mentioned that at the start. He came very highly recommended, I must say. He ought to keep you busy while I finish the machine.”

But Peggy’s got his back, and over the comms he hears her feet pound on the iron staircase in the corner of the warehouse. Another shot cracks off his armor, right over his heart, and knocks him back a few paces, but that’s enough to give him a trajectory, and he flings his shield up into the rafters. It hits something, with a dull metallic thud, and ricochets back down towards him. “You got him, Peggy?” he asks.

“Well, you practically gift-wrapped him for me,” she says dryly. “But I’ll cuff him to the railing and relieve him of his rifle, if you like. That shouldn’t be any-- oh.”

“Peggy?” Steve asks, suddenly apprehensive.

“Just-- just deal with Loki, fast as you can. Then get up here.”

Loki’s disappeared into the warehouse’s warren of sub-basements, but Steve manages to track him. He’s powered up the time machine by the time Steve finds him, hurriedly stripping wires and making minute adjustments to a panel of dials. “It’s not going to happen, Loki,” Steve tells him, and the man’s eyes grow frantic and trapped. “Your assassin’s out. Whatever you want the time machine for, I’m not letting you do it.”

“It-- it doesn’t have to be just for me,” Loki says, his voice pleading. “Haven’t you wanted to set things back in order? Make your life happen the way it was meant to? I can give you that, if you’ll only let me do the same. It would be the work of a moment to send you back to your proper time. Only think of it-- you’ll never have to feel out of place again. You’ll be where you belong, as if nothing ever went awry. All will be made right.”

Steve is speechless for a moment, and tempted. But he can hear Peggy’s breathing over the comms. “And Peggy?” he asks, his mouth suddenly dry. “What about her?”

“Take her along, for all I care,” Loki snaps. “Just give me my chance to make things right.”

Steve thinks of food that tastes right and music that sounds right and the Brooklyn Dodgers. He thinks of all the second chances he wishes he could have had, all the times when a little forewarning could have saved a life. He thinks of the life he used to want, for him and for Peggy, after the war.

But Peggy’s upstairs with a gun in her hand, as happy as he’s ever seen her. And he never could choose a single second chance, out of all his regrets. Time, he knows, has to be lived in one direction, and that’s forwards.

Almost too fast for human eyes to track, he throws his shield at the control panel, smashing it to pieces in an explosion of sparks. Loki howls like something wounded, and throws himself at Steve.

They grapple, but it’s not so much a fight as Loki trying frantically to inflict whatever damage he can on Steve, an attack that’s as ferocious as it is brief. Loki gets in one good blow to the head before Steve manages to throw him off, and when Steve sits up a few seconds later, ears ringing slightly, Loki is nowhere to be seen.

He makes his way back up to the ground floor of the warehouse, and comms Peggy. “Up here,” she calls over the railing, and Steve picks his way up the rusting iron staircase to the catwalk.

Peggy is standing guard over a man in nondescript, vaguely military-surplus clothes. He has a tangle of dark hair hiding his face, and he’s handcuffed by one wrist to the railing. His free hand glints silver in the dim light that streams through the warehouse’s filthy windows. He’s muttering to himself, in English and Russian, as he sits with his back to the railing, and there’s something about his voice that sets off alarm bells in Steve’s hindbrain.

“That arm’s made of metal,” Peggy says. “I didn’t want to try cuffing it. Steve, are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” Steve asks, confused, the assassin’s voice still niggling at him. “Only Loki got away. I think the time machine’s busted again. Shouldn’t we get a few more agents in here, to get the machine and take this guy in?”

The assassin looks up at Steve, and pushes his hair out of his eyes with his metal hand. The world suddenly stops turning, for Steve, because he knows that face.

“Captain America,” the assassin-- Bucky-- says in an accent that’s pure Brooklyn, his eyes perfectly clear for a moment, before his face clouds over. He says something in Russian, then shakes his head like he’s trying to clear water from his ears. “I know you,” he says. “Don’t I?”

“Yeah, Buck,” Steve says, trying to keep his voice soft, unthreatening, because Bucky looks like a man on the edge. “You do.”

He nods, and rubs at his forehead with the metal hand. “Both of you. I know you. Why is that?”

Peggy and Steve exchange a look over Bucky’s head. “What do you remember?” Peggy prompts him.

“Not supposed to remember,” he mutters, and looks up at Steve again. “But I do. You, your face, I know it. But I don’t remember you so tall.”

Steve can’t decide if he wants to laugh or cry. “Well, I wasn’t always.”

SHIELD agents are starting to make their careful way into the building. Steve’s going to have to explain why he and Peggy aren’t letting their prisoner out of their sight, and probably also apologize to Tony for breaking his time machine.

“Loki offered to let us use the time machine,” he remembers suddenly. “Both of us. To go back to ‘46, I guess.”

She raises an eyebrow at him. “You turned him down, I take it?”

“Well, I threw my shield at the machine. So yeah. And now I’m-- well. I was glad before that I said no. But now I’m more glad, I think.”

She steps closer to him, and nods. “I wouldn’t have wanted to go back, I don’t think. All things considered.”

He puts his arm around her, and nods. “I know what you mean.”

They wait together, the three of them, Steve and everyone in the world he needs to be happy. He knows whatever’s happened to Bucky in the last seventy years, it won’t be easy to undo-- but he has a chance to make things right. Without a do-over.

2. probably meant to be steve/bucky/nat, written pre-cap 2 and thus abandoned, but there were some lines I liked and should salvage for something else. hm.

Steve’s reckless. Always had been. He knows this, doesn’t shy from it, doesn’t try to deny it. He jumps into things without looking-- fights, thin air. It’s in his nature to react, think on his feet, try not to dwell on how things worked out. Sometimes he succeeds at that. Sometimes he sleeps easy, after. Not always.

He was like that before the serum, but after it, he sped up. He can sum up a situation in an eyeblink, now, chart a course, throw the right punch, angle the shield just so. When something feels right, it just clicks, somewhere in his head, and he knows what to do next.

With Bucky, he knew for years what to do next, felt that click before they needed to shave regular, but he was too chickenshit to try.

With Natasha it took longer, but that’s no surprise. She’s a hell of a lot harder to read, to predict, and even once Steve trusted her he didn’t dare to presume he knew her. He felt like he was presuming to want her, for that matter. Some things he’s not brave enough to be reckless about.

And anyway, there have always been more important things than who Steve wants.

What’s been done to Bucky-- it’s monstrous, horrifying, and Steve doesn’t much care that everyone’s telling him the man he knew is dead. Everyone but Natasha, anyway, so he listens to her, lets her set the mission parameters. Trusts her to help him save his friend. There isn’t much Steve wouldn’t do for Bucky Barnes, and that has precious little to do with wanting him. Following Natasha’s lead is no hardship, when she’s the only one offering him even a slender chance of getting Bucky back.

So they go on the run. They track down leads together, fight together, sleep together-- well, they collapse on musty motel beds together, catching the few precious hours they can risk before they run again. Steve pushes the parts of him that want as far back as he can stuff them, because they’ve got nothing to do with saving Bucky. To his surprise, he catches Natasha doing the same.

“It’s not relevant to the mission,” she says, her face shuttering, after it warmed a little too much, after Steve tried to prompt a reminiscence out of her by offering one of his own. “It was a long time ago, anyway. Another life.”

But it’s there, he senses, in her as much as him, a candle’s worth of burning tucked away somewhere in her heart, still giving off light and heat despite life’s best efforts to put it out. He doesn’t know what to do with that, doesn’t know how to resolve it, so he sets it aside for a while, until the job is done.

He keeps his candle out of sight the way he always has, out of the wind as best he can, and in the meantime he doesn’t have time to think or plan or hope for the future. He just reacts, jumps with both feet, as reckless as he’s ever been, and Natasha’s at his side the whole way down. He faces down the man with his best friend’s face, too-blank, nothing but the barest hint of a flicker in his eyes, but that’s enough to keep him going.

When it’s over, when he’s paid HYDRA back in blood for the wrongs done to those he loves, he and Natasha take Bucky and they disappear.

The safe house is Natasha's, an old one, little-used by the fine coating of dust on everything. "No one'll know we're here," she says as they enter, more for Steve's benefit than Bucky's, who by now is leaning heavily on Steve to stay upright. Even without the smudged eye-black his eyes are shadow-ringed, bleary; Steve's not sure how much of the last day or so Bucky has followed. He hasn't let go of Steve's wrist with his good hand, though, not for hours, and his eyes track Natasha's movements and little else.

Steve's exhausted, bone-weary, as he half-carries Bucky after Nat. He follows her through a doorway, where he lets Bucky down onto the bed as gently as he can manage. Bucky mutters something, too slurred to make out, and curls onto his side. He doesn't let go of Steve's wrist.

"You stay with him," Natasha says. "I'll keep watch."

So Steve lets himself down onto the bed, next to Bucky, careful as he can be. He hears Natasha settle into a chair. Here’s the funny thing: the sound of Bucky breathing in his sleep is just the same as he remembers.

When Steve wakes, Bucky’s still out cold, and Natasha’s left the room. He disentangles himself, and steps softly out. The multitude of half-healed injuries he’s picked up, these last few days, have largely gone, and he’s absolutely starving. The safehouse cupboards are stocked with dusty cans, and Steve checks the expiration date on one with a shrug. He’s eaten worse. Spam is actually kind of comfort food, these days.

3. Steve/Bucky in a Canadian shack. As you do.

It’s quiet here. It’s quiet, and he’s warm (not warm enough, but then he’s never--), and he’s alone. There’s canned food, and a music player that isn’t a radio, and a few shelves full of books. And he is miles from anywhere, miles from anyone who would want to hurt him or who he would have to hurt. Even the howling blizzard outside doesn’t bother him: until it’s over, he won’t have to run again. The wind isn’t so loud that he minds. Maybe the word he wants is peaceful.

The first day of the storm, he set a pot of soup to simmer on the little gas-fired stove, and sleeps for hours longer than he can remember sleeping in a long time. The second day, he eats some of the soup and reads from one of the books. He is surprised to find that there is something in him that can still be transported by a story, and more surprised to find that he remembers how this particular story ends before he’s halfway finished.

He sets the book aside to sleep, as the light fails. When he’s jolted awake, just after dawn, it’s not by a nightmare-- someone is hammering at the door.

Or trying to. After the first few solid thumps, the pounding grows fainter. By the time he approaches the door, cautiously, gun in his good hand, it’s stopped entirely. He shrugs a parka on, chambers a round, and pulls the door open--

--and a man falls into the cabin, unconscious or dead.

The wind bites like a knife, so he pulls the man into the cabin fully and shuts the door. The man is frost-rimed, bundled in goggles and ski mask, hooded and gloved. When these are removed, the face they reveal is tow-headed, blue-lipped, and utterly, painfully familiar.

“Fuck,” says the Winter Soldier, and starts pulling Steve’s clothes off.

Steve’s skin is cool to the touch, which is wrong, all wrong-- the Soldier’s fractured memories say he ought to radiate heat like a furnace. Once divested of cold-weather gear, the Soldier bundles Steve under the blankets of the cabin’s sole bed, and piles on the spare quilts from the trunk in the corner for good measure. He stokes the fire, and when Steve has only just started to go pink again, to shiver faintly, the Soldier makes a rough, furious noise in the back of his throat and starts undressing. He strips to his shorts and a long-sleeved thermal-- somehow, he doesn’t think Steve would appreciate the cold metal of the Soldier’s left arm touching him-- and slides under the covers next to Steve.

He rubs his good hand along Steve’s too-cool arms, his chest, turns Steve on his side and plasters himself along Steve’s back. After a little while, Steve starts to shiver harder, shaking in the Soldier’s grip. Steve stirs enough to be aware of the body wrapped around him, but not enough to struggle. His cold hand goes up to encircle the Soldier’s right wrist, but he doesn’t grip too tight, nor pull his arm away-- just holds on.

When Steve has shivered his way back to stillness, when the stutter’s gone out of his breathing and his face has lost its tinge of blue, the Soldier peels Steve’s hand, now safely warm, free of his wrist and climbs out from under the covers. Steve doesn’t wake. The Soldier stands at the side of the bed, watching him, for longer than he should. He catalogues the changes since the last time he laid eyes on this man: the growth of beard, the hair grown long enough again to part neatly (though Steve doesn’t seem to have bothered, and not for some time). The way Steve’s brow furrows in sleep echoes off something in the Soldier’s head, bell-clear, ringing in the depths of his few painstakingly reassembled memories.

The Soldier sits by the bed, and picks up his book. He knows how it ends, but much of the middle is gone; he wants to see how the story gets there.

It’s dark again by the time Steve wakes. The storm hasn’t abated, not for a moment; it likely won’t for days or weeks to come. Steve doesn’t wake up like someone confined to a small space with an unknown hostile; he wakes like the cat that caught the canary, with a sleepy, satisfied noise and a full-body stretch under the covers. The Soldier can’t help but watch. He supposed he is, for now, thoroughly caught.

It’s not until Steve sits up and blinks the sleep from his eyes that he seems to realize where he is. He goes still when he sees the Soldier, all over, and that pained furrow appears again. The Soldier wants to wipe it off his face, though whether with a blow or something gentler he cannot seem to decide.

“Bucky,” Steve begins, and the Soldier snaps his book shut, the cover making a loud enough crack that Steve flinches, just a little, just so much that someone like the Soldier can detect it.

“Don’t call me that,” the Soldier says, failing to keep menace out of his voice.

“It’s your name,” Steve counters. There isn’t a trace of fear in him. The Soldier can’t remember ever having seen Steve with a trace of fear in him.

Well. Maybe once.

“It’s not,” the Soldier says. “You’ve been chasing a dead man. You’re an idiot, if you think walking through a blizzard will bring him back.”

“You should remember by now,” Steve says, the ghost of a smile tugging at his mouth, “that I’m exactly that kind of idiot.”

And the Soldier knows that’s true, knows it bone-deep, past muscle memory and ravaged brain tissue, but the blizzard Steve needed to walk through to save his friend is seventy years gone. He missed his chance.

Something stays his tongue, though, keeps him from saying as much aloud. Something in him doesn’t want to see the light go out in that face.

4. Sam/Nat, possibly the one where they flirt with each other to embarrass Steve but then end up meaning it on accident? Not sure.

It’s for emergencies. Sam knows this. And the way his life has gone the past few months, ‘emergency’ means something a lot more dire than it used to, even when he was still in the service. ‘Emergency’ means things like ‘I am currently bleeding in a way that requires a hospital,’ or ‘there is a heavily defended Hydra base and Steve is getting that look that means he wants to take it down by himself,’ or ‘the Winter Soldier got tired of playing cat and mouse and started playing sniper and target.’

So he definitely shouldn’t call Natasha on the phone she gave them for emergencies.

The other phone, the one that’s definitely not for emergencies, is still ringing. Sam watches it ring. It stops for a few seconds, and then starts again.

Sam swears under his breath, and calls Natasha.

She picks up on the second ring. “What’s the situation?”

“Look, I know this probably doesn’t qualify, but I have run clean out of options, and Steve said you had some experience--”

“Experience with what?” She sounds worried, insofar as she ever sounds worried. “Sam, is Steve okay?”

“Yeah! Sorry, yeah, he’s fine. It’s just-- you know how we met up with Stark when we were in New York, and he offered to build me new wings?”

“He come through with them yet?”

Sam sighs. “He did. They’re pretty sweet, actually. But we hung out some while he was putting them together, and he asked me what I do when I’m not running around with Steve, and I deeply regret telling him because he won’t stop calling me.”

Natasha, damn her, laughs.

“It’s not funny! Yesterday he called me in a firefight to tell me about his goddamn daddy issues, which are extensive, and I’ve told him I’m not that kind of counselor and I’ve told him I’m not remotely qualified and he still calls me three times a day to talk about his childhood.”

Nat’s still laughing. “It’s not funny!”

“Yeah, it is.”

“...Okay, maybe it is. A little. But how the hell do I get him to stop?”

5. This was going to be a thing about Steve working behind the scenes so Bucky could safely come in from the cold.

1. Red Carpet Inn, Baltimore, MD

In stolen clothes, with stolen cash, the Winter Soldier pays for a room without making eye contact, without speaking in anything more than monosyllables.

2. Russell Office Building, Washington, DC

Steve always feels a little strange, visiting the Russell Building. It’s a combination of the way the staffers stare and whisper as he walks past, and the way he feels vaguely like he’s on the set of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. But he’s got business to attend to.

Senator Mitchell’s secretary tells him the Senator’s not, actually, in at the moment, but she lets him wait in the Senator’s office after she catches half-a-dozen interns gathered at the door, taking cell-phone pictures of Steve. He goes gratefully. The office is full of glass-fronted bookcases and framed pictures of the Senator’s grandkids. Steve sits in the chair opposite the big old wooden desk, turning the file folder in his hands over and over. He doesn’t open it; he doesn’t need to, anymore. He’s read it through enough times for a lifetime.

It’s a quarter of an hour, maybe, before the door opens again. Steve twists in his seat, and then stands. “Captain Rogers,” says the Senator, nodding at him.

“Sir,” says Steve. “Good to see you again.”

Senator Mitchell and Steve don’t, actually, see eye-to-eye on much. Women in combat, universal health care, raising the minimum wage-- most of the things Steve is for, the Senator’s against. But Steve respects the man, and knows he’s respected in Congress, and he stays standing as the Senator makes his slow, careful way across the room, his cane tap-tapping with each step.

The Viet Cong broke the Senator’s legs three times, and let them heal wrong, while the Senator was a POW.

Steve’s hoping they’ll see eye-to-eye today.

“So what brings you to the Hill today, Captain?” Senator Mitchell asks, once he’s lowered himself carefully into his chair. Steve sits back down, and sets the file folder Natasha gave him down on the desk.

“You’re holding hearings soon, about everything that happened with SHIELD,” Steve says, and the Senator nods. “There are some things that I’d like to stay off-the-record.”

Senator Mitchell’s eyebrows go up. “I know how that sounds,” Steve says. “But I’m trying to protect someone who really needs it.”

“Why don’t you start from the beginning,” says Senator Mitchell, and Steve nods, and pushes the folder across the desk.

6.The 2015 Howling Commando Family Reunion, which was definitely gonna get gate-crashed by supersoldiers who don't know how to talk about their feelings.

When Bethy pulled in to the parking lot at the campground, Friday morning, Jill was already waiting with a clipboard and a harried expression.

“You have the t-shirts, right?” was the first thing out of her mouth.

“Good to see you, too,” Bethy said, amused, and Jill looked rueful.

“Sorry. Sorry, yes, c’mere--” and they hugged, briefly, before Jill pulled back and said “but seriously, the t-shirts?”

“In the back,” Bethy said. “They turned out fine, don’t worry.”

“Great!” Jill said. “Paul’s on his way with the coolers, and I’ve got the check-in table set up, so we can leave the boxes there. Kia and Zach are coming, right?”

“Kia’s flight gets in at two,” Bethy said. “Zach’s picking her up, and he and Marcie and the kids will all be here by dinnertime.”

The path from the parking lot was wide and graveled, lined with trees. At the far end there was an open field, a long, low building running along one side, the first few cabins tucked into the woods along the other. Bethy adjusted her grip on the box of t-shirts, and smiled when she saw the banner hanging above the gazebo, behind the check-in table.

HOWLING COMMANDOS FAMILY REUNION 2015, it read.

“The banner looks good,” Bethy said, and Jill smiled nervously.

“You think? I wasn’t sure about the font--”

“It looks good,” Bethy said again.

Friday afternoon was hectic, the way it always was-- getting everyone checked in, t-shirts doled out, knots of people every few feet stopping to greet each other, hug, catch up on what they’d missed since last time. Jill was in her element, frantic and perfectly happy to be frantic. Bethy watched with amusement as Jill sorted out a mix-up in the cabin assignments and sent her husband to check on the food and delegated a pack of assorted grandchildren to plant the clues for the scavenger hunt.

Bethy handed out t-shirts and name tags, and thanked her lucky stars that she wasn’t in charge this year.

The day was drawing on, shadows getting a bit longer, the bulk of the crowd cleared out to unpack in their cabins and get ready for dinner, and Bethy let herself sit back in her folding chair and relax a little.

“Huh,” Jill said, and frowned at her clipboard. She flipped back a few pages, and frowned again. “Bethy, who’s in cabin fourteen?”

Bethy tried to look innocent. “Moritas, I think,” she said.

“No, they’re in nine, twelve, six, seven and… three,” Jill said. “I can’t find the roster for that cabin anywhere. Do you know where it went?”

Bethy did, but it was meant to be a surprise. “I don’t think I’ve seen it,” she said.

“Hm,” said Jill. She snapped her fingers. “Oh, and that reminds me-- you should tell the t-shirt people they sent us extras.”

“Did they?” Bethy asked.

“Just a couple, yeah. And in the wrong color. Not a big deal, or anything--”

Jill stopped talking. She opened her mouth, and closed it again. She was staring at the spot where the gravel path let out into the field.

There was a young man standing there, in a baseball cap and a light jacket. He was tall, and broad-shouldered, and looked a little uncertain of himself. He brightened when he saw the gazebo, and Jill and Bethy sitting behind the table.

“Hi,” he said once he’d walked over. “Uh, I guess I’m in the right place? Are you Bethy?”

“You certainly are, Captain Rogers, and yes, I am,” said Bethy. She offered him a hand to shake; he took it. Jill gaped. “You’re in cabin fourteen. And here, this is for you.” She pulled out the last box of t-shirts. The minimum order was five, so she had extra, but that was all right.

“Just so you know, we Joneses are in green this year. The Dugans are in red, Moritas in purple, Falsworths in white, and Derniers in yellow.” Bethy handed him his shirt. “I thought you might like blue. You can have the extras, too, if you want.”

“Thanks,” said Captain America. “It’s, uh, nice to meet you in person.”

“We’re all glad you could make it, Cap,” said Bethy.

He hitched his duffel back onto his shoulder, tucked the t-shirts under his arm, and walked off across the field towards the cabins.

There was a long pause.

Jill said, “Bethy, what-- how-- how did you--?”

“I had one of my nephews pass the invitation on,” Bethy said. “Wasn’t sure if he was going to come. I thought it’d be a nice surprise, if he did.”

“This is revenge for me switching caterers,” Jill said. “Isn’t it.”

Bethy laughed. “Just trying to keep you on your toes.”

The look Jill shot her was frankly skeptical. “Okay,” Bethy allowed, “and I wanted to see the look on your face if he did show up.”

“Hmph,” said Jill, but she was smiling. “I’d better warn Tim that dinner’s going to be a madhouse.”

Dinner was, as predicted, a madhouse. Well, it usually was, anyway: kids racing to claim seats with their favorite cousins, arguments over whose turn it was to fetch more pitchers of lemonade, the inevitable discovery that plastic spoons make good catapults. Most of the teenagers gravitated towards a table in the corner, where they could complain about their families in peace.

Bethy had a table near the middle staked out, with enough seats for Kia and Zach and Marcie and the kids, and one extra. “Who’re we waiting on?” Zach asked when he saw the empty seat, after Bethy had hugged Kia and her grandbabies and everyone was settled.

“It’s a surprise,” Bethy said, smiling to herself.

7. Relatedly, a thing about times the Howling Commandos met up after the war.

None of the neighbors knew how they managed it, but the Moritas got their farm back after the war.

They whole boiling of ‘em came back not long after V-J Day. Mrs. Morita had an armful of paperwork and a look that could scorch paint, so the folks who’d bought their land for pennies on the dollar cleared out without putting up much more than a token fuss. There’d been grumbling, later, and even talk of trying to scare them off, but nothing ever came of it.

The old man’s health was never the same, though, so the oldest son took over the running of things. Jim had served, and seen action, though he didn’t talk much about what kind. The fellas who hung around at the general store speculated about it, some, but no one quite had the nerve to ask Jim directly. He kept to himself, mostly, like the rest of the family. It hadn’t been that way before the war, but nobody knew how to treat him, or any of them, since they came back.

For Armistice Day, that year, they had a parade through the center of town, and all the boys who’d just come home marched in their uniforms with the older veterans. The Moritas arrived early, piled out of their farm truck-- and they’d sold that, too, so how it had come back to them was a mystery-- and claimed a few feet of sidewalk. Jim wasn’t with them.

Someone got up the nerve to ask if he was marching. “He’ll be along,” said Mrs. Morita. “Some friends of his from the service are in town, and they’re marching together.”

People were turning up in bunches, more as the morning wore on, a family at a time staking out their stretch of curb. Some had folding chairs; a lot of the kids were clutching flags. Then a big, shiny car, expensive and new, pulled up next to the farm truck and disgorged a bunch of men in sharp suits. A few of them had the kind of big flashbulb cameras that newspaper reporters carry.

They drew a lot of curious looks, especially when one of them walked right up to Mrs. Morita and conferred quietly with her for a few minutes. People wondered, of course. People always do.

But no one dared ask, until one of the newsmen asked a lady if she felt honored. “Honored by what?” she asked. The newsman gave her a funny look.

He told her he was surprised she hadn’t heard. Of all the towns Captain America’s surviving squadmates could have reunited in, on this day of all days, they picked here. Didn’t she feel lucky?

Well, that spread like wildfire. When the parade started, people craned their necks past the home-built floats and the pep squad from the high school and the FFA kids on horseback, looking for the men who’d fought with Captain America.

You could hear murmuring, coming from further down the street, where the men in uniform were already starting to file by. It rippled down the sidewalk ‘til it reached the spot where the Moritas were sitting, where the newsmen were gathered with their cameras.

Five men came walking past, the rest of the veterans behind them. Two of them were in unfamiliar uniforms. All of them were shiny with medals. Five men, walking side by side. In the middle of the line was Jim Morita, just as shiny as the other four. He said something to the man next to him-- a big, mustachioed fellow-- and he laughed, cuffing Jim’s arm affectionately. The flashbulbs started to go off as they approached.

It was in the papers, the next day. And it was all anyone talked about for weeks. Jim Morita, a Howling Commando! Who’d have ever thought it.

8. MCU daemon AU, mostly Cap & Bucky. I got as far as figuring out what happened to Bucky's daemon (thankfully, nothing permanent) and figuring out most of the characters' daemons, and having done that sort of failed to write the actual story. Whoops?

Whatever this place is, Hydra hasn’t bothered to waste manpower on it in a long time. Steve lets himself in cautiously, Gracie close at his heels, but unlike the other bases where Bucky had been and gone, there aren’t any bodies lying slumped, no red spray on the walls drying to brown.

Gracie doesn’t need to follow Bucky’s scent. There’s a single set of footprints in the dust. Steve tries not to think about how there should be two.

They walk in Bucky’s footsteps down one flight of crumbling concrete stairs, and another, and another. This far under the building Steve’s a little surprised that the power’s still on, but there are fitful sodium lights here and there, just enough to see by.

At the bottom of the stairwell is a door, the dust on the handle disturbed. The letters stenciled on it are the same as the codename on the earliest files Hydra had with Bucky in them.

"Project Koschei," Gracie says. "Do we want to know what it was?"

"No," Steve says. "But we owe it to them, don’t we?"

Steve has his shield up as he opens the door, and Gracie’s hackles are up. They dart through quickly, prepared for a fight— and freeze at what they see.

The lab, like the rest of the place, is dust-coated, dim, full of obsolete mechanical things whose uses Steve couldn’t begin to puzzle out. There’s a corridor cleared down the center of the lab, fresh marks in the dust showing that Bucky had shoved carts to either side and hefted equipment out of the way to clear his path.

At the far end of the lab, Bucky is kneeling in the dust, in a puddle that came from somewhere, in front of an open metal cylinder. The tank looks like the one they found in the bank vault in DC, except it’s half the size, much too small for a human to fit into.

Bucky is kneeling, his back to them, body curled around the thing that’s cradled in his lap. He doesn’t even seem to know that anyone’s entered the room. He doesn’t react at all when Gracie takes a few cautious steps forward, her ears pricked. Steve feels rooted to the spot.

Gracie’s nearly close enough, now, to nose at Bucky’s elbow, to see what he’s holding. “Hattie?” she says, hardly a whisper, and Steve feels the first real flicker of hope he’s had in months. “Is that you?”

Over Bucky’s harsh breathing, over his own and Gracie’s, Steve finds he can hear a fourth set of lungs working. He can hear the faintest hint of a sound, a pained whine that Steve remembers from hungover mornings in Brooklyn and medical tents in Italy, England, France.

His feet seem to have carried him closer without him thinking much about it. Bucky still hasn’t moved. But Steve’s close enough now to see the way Bucky’s human hand is clutching at the wet fur in his lap; sees the hand grip tighter, convulsive, and then ease enough to stroke Hattie’s flank.

Gracie comes close enough to touch, and then Bucky does move, flinching away, wrapping himself tighter around his daemon. “Hey, Bucky, it’s okay,” Steve says. “It’s us. Nothing to be scared of.”

"I. I didn’t." Bucky looks up at him, and it’s not the dead-eyed Soldier’s stare any longer.

Something in Steve unclenches with relief. "I didn’t know," Bucky says.

"Know what?"

"Anything. Her name. What she looked like. That I even had—" Bucky breaks off and hunches over Hattie again.

Steve drops to his knees on the wet concrete, beside Bucky and Hattie. He pulls Gracie close, and she tucks her head under his chin, warm and comforting and alive.

"It’s okay," Gracie tells him. "You found her anyway."

And the list:

steve: gray wolf / Agrace (Gracie)
bucky: malamute / Harriet (Hattie)

sarah rogers: mistle thrush / Aoife
dr. erskine: red squirrel / Mirele
peggy: border collie / Leo
howard: mink / Hypatia
col philips: bulldog / Nellie
jim morita: black bear / Yuna
gabe jones: otter / Rhea
dum dum: mongrel terrier / Lulu
dernier: magpie / Clotilde
falsworth: stick insect / Philomena
zola: glass frog
schmidt: great skua

jane: aye-aye
darcy: grasshopper mouse
thor: asgardian equivalent of a Great Pyrenees
loki: arctic fox
odin: raven
frigga: skogkatt

natasha: never settled / Yefim / Fima
tony: rhesus monkey
pepper: carolina parakeet
clint: Cooper’s hawk

sam: laughing falcon / Rosalie
sharon: irish setter / Luka
maria hill: american badger / Gus
fury: great horned owl / Simone

pierce: coral snake / Caecilia
rumlow: pit bull / Rita
sitwell: harlequin beetle

There is also a Pushing Daisies thing I am saving for later because it's the only not-MCU WIP of any substance, and also because I still think I might figure out how to write a sex scene in the Jim Dale narrator voice eventually.
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